The need for omnichannel education

Why people and teams need to change to make omnichannel marketing possible

By Rebecca Rosborough, CMO, MiQ

When we talk about omnichannel marketing, a lot of the conversation tends to focus on technology and tools.

That’s understandable. Omnichannel marketing – that ideal state where you can use all the data you gather in all your channels to inform your holistic marketing strategy – is only possible thanks to very smart people finding very smart solutions that advance capabilities in data processing, targeting, incremental measurement and so on.

But, as our recent survey conducted with Digiday – Omnichannel: Building for the future state of advertising – made clear, the promise of true omnichannel marketing is still not being attained by the majority of marketers. 

And that’s because of a simple truth: most marketing teams aren’t set up for omnichannel marketing. Even though the tools and technologies exist, doesn’t mean marketing teams have the expertise to use them well. And, at a deeper structural level, there are still silos within teams that make using the insights gleaned from multiple channels actionable in a true omnichannel way. 

New tech, new teams

We discussed a classic example of this on our podcast in an episode called TVs are connected – what’s a marketer to do? 

Now that more and more TVs are connected to the internet, and thus an addressable programmatic channel and source of rich audience data, there are myriad opportunities for marketers to link up their TV advertising (previously a linear silo) with their digital marketing. They can, for instance, follow up their high-altitude brand advertising on the big screen, with targeted direct response-style ads on devices that they know are in the same room. 

It’s very cool stuff. But, as our guest Kevin Van Valkenburgh, chief connections officer, Tombras, said, the question for marketing teams then becomes: Who runs the show? Is it the TV team with all their experience in buying TV spots or the digital team with all their experience in targeting, buying journeys and so on?

And, of course the answer is both/and rather than either/or, but unless the practical mechanisms exist for that kind of collaboration, there’s always the danger of two sets of experts working at cross-purposes rather than pulling together. 

 Companies need more omnichannel expertise

It’s no surprise, then, that our omnichannel survey found that companies are desperate for more omnichannel expertise within their teams. They know the approaches they would like to be taking, but until they have the right people in the right roles, they can’t take them as yet. 

For example, 66% of US marketers said they would like to be making new team hires who possess omnichannel programmatic expertise, while 17% say they would like to have additional training in omnichannel approaches for their existing personnel.

So how do they achieve this? There are essentially two methods. And while they’re not mutually exclusive, it’s interesting to note the differences between what US marketers are generally doing versus their counterparts in Canada and the UK. 

1. Establishing tech partnerships

In the US, the preference for brands is to build partnerships with omnichannel tech experts to help fill the gaps in their teams. 

When asked about their most important strategies for expanding omnichannel capabilities, 60% of US respondents cited increased use of partnerships with tech providers or, frequently, tech-savvy agencies to help them navigate the challenges of building and executing omnichannel strategies.

2. Bringing experts in-house

UK and Canadian teams, meanwhile, are generally putting their efforts into bringing more omnichannel experts in-house, either with hiring or upskilling existing teams. 

For example, 30% of Canadian marketers say they plan to increase internal training, and 22% say they’ll add new hires, while in the UK, 42% plan to increase internal training. 

Education is the key to omnichannel 

The truth is, whichever option a business pursues, to make omnichannel programmatics strategies work at scale, and with wide-reaching effect, education is the key. At present, most teams simply don’t know how to grapple with the expanding landscape and understand — or measure, or integrate — the plethora of incoming data. 

As Andrew Goode, evp and head of programmatic at Havas Media Group, said: “You need to have an intimate understanding of the ever-increasing complexity of what, as an industry, we’re coming up with. It’s something that we have to be able to tackle if we’re going to make sense of this massive, complex ecosystem that we’ve created.” 

And the only two major entities who can do this educating are media agencies and tech providers themselves. That’s obviously true if they’re partnering with brands. But even for brands who are in-housing their programmatic capabilities, there’s education to be done so that the people using their tools and technologies know the full scope of their potential. 

Without this, buyers will lag in their approach to omnichannel programmatic and will likely fail to take advantage of an expanding spectrum of programmatic channels and environments because of disorganization and silos.

For omnichannel to work across our industry, tech providers and agencies need to up their game in providing education and expertise, as well as technology and tools. And brands themselves need to demand this level of upskilling from the people they work with so they can fully capture the promise of omnichannel programmatic and stay competitive in a rapidly expanding environment.